After pier vote, what's next?

6:35 PM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
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Video: After St. Pete Pier vote, what's next?

Video: After pier vote, what's next?

The Welcome Mat has been slightly modified and decreased in size. This large community gathering space would be ideal for Food Truck rallies, craft fairs, outdoor markets and running and walking events. Note the addition of a space for the proposed Columbia Restaurant (to the right).
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- If citizens say 'Build the Pier' with their votes, then it will be full speed ahead for the Lens project.

But before you build a new pier, you've got to get rid of the old one. While the city still needs some permits, demolition is expected to take place by the end of this year and then construction on the Lens would start about six months after that. Construction is expected to take about 18 months, so in the fall or winter of 2015, the Lens could be open.

And no matter who winds up being mayor, they'll be focused on the Lens.

"Build the Lens and we keep working on programming to make sure it's something that's iconic, a landmark, our signature piece for 75 years," said Mayor Bill Foster Tuesday morning.

Mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman says if people do vote to go forward with the Lens, "Then my job as mayor is to make sure we get it built within budget, that we get it built as quick as we can, and that we make it as successful as we can."

However, polls show the Lens moving forward after Tuesday is an unlikely scenario and that voters are more likely to say 'Stop the Lens'.

If that happens the city's contract with the architect will be terminated and people who have worked hard to combat the Lens say they'll work just as hard to come up with something better. 

"I know we can have a more useful pier and hopefully it will have a broad consensus, because the public will be involved from the start," says Bud Risser, a leader of the Lens opposition group Concerned Citizens.

Just in case the Lens is defeated, Mayor Foster has already formed a diverse group tasked with coming up with a new pier selection process. Called the 828 Alliance, a reference to tomorrow's date, the group is slated to give their final report to the mayor on Wednesday.

"The recommendation of the 828 group involved a lot of community input, surveys, larger architectural pool," said Foster. "So out of that process we're going to get something that we can be proud of."

Commercials for the Lens suggest that if the project is scrapped the city will be back to square one, with a lot of talk and bickering and a new pier years down the line. And that's why mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman says it's important to keep new pier plans on a tight schedule.

"I have a plan in place," says Kriseman. "Within three months get new taskforce recommendations, within nine months have a new design, and hopefully have it built by 2015."

Whether either man's plan can produce a popular pier proposal under such a tight timeframe remains to be seen, but keep in mind it took the city nearly four years to get to this point. 

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